Gamblers in Kenya have until Friday night to withdraw money deposited in sports betting companies’ wallets or lose them.
The directive was issued on Thursday, when the Kenya’s Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government wrote to mobile telecommunication companies, giving them 48 hours to implement the directive before the text message short codes used by the betting firms are closed.
“This is to permit you to allow gamers of the subject firms to withdraw any funds they may have deposited in the material period within Forty-Eight (48) hours from the date hereof, and duly notify them of the same,” a letter dated July 11 to Safaricom, signed by Liti Wambua, an acting director at the Interior Ministry states in part.
It states that the decision was taken due to the betting firms’ failure to observe regulations required for them to obtain new licences.
“The licenses of operators were not renewed for the period 1st July 2019 to June 30th, 2020,” the letter adds.
It is copied to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho who had issued warnings to betting firms to comply or risk losing their licences.
Prior to the Thursday directive, the ministry had also written to telecommunication companies, including Safaricom, directing them to suspend their pay-bills and short codes “until otherwise advised.”
27 betting firms are affected including, Pevans E.A Ltd that trades as Sportpesa, Lucky 2 U, Asian Betting and Gaming Ltd, Kick Off Sports Bar Ltd, Mozzarbet Kenya Ltd, Atari Gaming Ltd, Millionnaire Sports Bet Ltd, Premier Betting Ltd, Advanced Innovation Ltd, Sekunde Technologies among others.
None of the firms had publicly issued a statement by Friday morning, but sources said some of them were contemplating filing suits to block the government move to end gambling in Kenya.
Interior CS Matiangi has previously stated that the gambling sector may have been engaging in money laundering.
“We cannot run a sector where we are indirectly supporting money laundering,” he said in April, and revealed that the sector had revenue of a staggering Sh200 billion but only Sh4 billion was paid to the government as taxes.